Articles for the Month of July 2011

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for July 2011

Abundant Lilies

It is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day again and time to share what is happening around the garden.  I think there are two themes to note in the garden right now.  The lilies have been absolutely spectacular.  The wonderful scent of the big orientals is evident both inside and outside the house at the moment.  You can’t help but notice them as you walk by.  A few years ago we had our best lilies disappear, apparently to some vole-like critter.  We tried to fight back by establishing lilies in other parts of the yard.  And now left-over pieces of those original plantings are coming back and all the other new ones are flourishing as well.  Some of the lilies would be 7 or 8 feet tall if we had managed to stake them and instead they are leaning and interwoven with other plants.  Some of my favorites are these.

Lilium oriental 'Casa Blanca' plant


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Casa Blanca'


Lilium Oriental-Triumph hybrid 'Scheherazade' with Joe Pye Weed


Scheherazade backlit


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Salmon Star'


Lilium Oriental Hybrid 'Muscadet'


The other gardening element that just shines this time of year is the front rock garden where the mix of perennials is in constant flux but seems to be especially floriferous right now.

Front Rock Garden

It’s hard not to share it from different angles

Front Rock Garden 2nd view

Or to want to point out the different elements that make up this garden like the Shasta Daisies

Shasta Daisies 'Becky'

or the Agastache ‘Tutti-Frutti’ returning for it’s 4th season.

Agastache 'Tutti-frutti'

The color of this agastache is very close to the persian cornflower that is so happy that I’ve now given it a place in the sunshine instead of the semi-shade where it persisted but hardly flowered.

Persian Cornflower 'Centaurea dealbata'

Another piece of that front bed is the yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass.

Yarrow surrounded by ponytail grass (Nassella tenuissima)

And rising in the midst of the yarrow and ponytail grass is a nice stand of alstroemeria ‘Sweet Laura’ which is taller than almost anything else in the bed.

Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura'

In the back camellia garden there is a nice combination of echinacea and geranium.

Echinacea purpea 'White Swan' and Geranium 'Rozanne'

This is right next to what I thought was some 3 foot high late iris.  It turns out that it is blackberry lily that has self-seeded to a very inappropriate place at the front of the bed.

Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis)

Let me close with a view of the peaches out in the orchard (life is not about flowers alone, though one can make a good argument for that proposition).

Red Haven Peaches




A Little Drop of Rain

Rainbow at Busch stadium on July 4th

It rained yesterday.  It wasn’t as dramatic as the rainbow we saw on July 4th in St. Louis where we basking the afterglow of a wonderful marriage celebration for our ‘third’ son.  Nor did it have the news impact of the flash flood that hit Frederick with an inch and a half of rain in 30 minutes on July 8th.  Nope.  This was just a gentle rain that fell in the morning for long enough for us to notice that it was really raining and to actually penetrate the dry ground and begin to help the plants.  And it was particularly satisfying because I had only just finally gotten the peppers, eggplants, squash, cukes, and annual flowers planted.  Since this is about 2 months late for them and for the corn that finally got into the ground this morning we shall have to wait and see what the outcome is likely to be.

Once again we have been dealing with really dry weather where it seems like every summer thunderstorm drops its rain on somebody else.  However, the constant hand watering has finally caused me to reconsider our approach to watering.  For many years (let’s say nearly 40) I have acted under the mistaken impression that on the East Coast it was up to Nature to water my garden.  I gave the weather gods the chief responsibility for making certain that all the plants had enough water.  This was probably because, compared  to California where I was raised, the water seemed abundant here and it actually did fall from the skies a fair amount.  When the water didn’t come down however, I complained about dead plants and only reluctantly pulled out the hoses when plants were drooping.  We also have the problem that too much watering will dry up our well and that has implications for washing, showering, and drinking.

This year I came to the brilliant conclusion that if I water during the middle of the night in small amounts it should (a) help the plants, (b) not drain the well, and (c) reduce my daytime labor.  To this end I’ve rigged up 7 watering stations around the yard and garden with timers set to go off for 15 mins on the hour all night long.

Hose manifold leading to timers

Even though we’ve only been doing this for a short while I can already see that this is going to improve my time and attention to other parts of the gardening process if I don’t have to spend 2 hrs every other day dragging the hose around the yard.  Now your may well ask what took me so long to come to this solution and for the life of me I don’t really know.  But running a water pipe out to the garden certainly made this easier to do.

As far as brilliant insights go, I am batting two for two this week.  We normally keep our compost bucket underneath the kitchen sink.  For some reason we let it get pretty full and found that fruit flies were having a sexual orgy down there.  At least they produced a lot of babies that were rapidly spreading to the fruit bowl, the wine bottles, the glad and lily flower vases, and any place with sweet or fragrant substances.  In the past this kind of infestation has been really hard to eliminate.  Basically it involved getting rid of all the attractive things and spraying rooms on a regular basis.  However, when I found them on the beautiful gladiolus and lily displays I knew we needed another solution.  So here is what I did (and I want full patent rights on this solution).  I sprayed the inside of the vacuum cleaner and then vacuumed the little buggers off every surface where they had settled.  The vacuum wand can actually pick them right out the air.  It took about two days of going back over the same areas and sucking them out of the air until there were no more to be found.  I did put a plug on the end of the vacuum while it was not in use to make sure they didn’t appear again from inside the machine.  The process worked so well that I didn’t even have any left to take a picture of for this posting.

Speaking of bugs, has anyone noticed that the population of stinkbugs is dramatically decreased from last year.  I don’t know of any reason why that would happen but the reduction is most welcome.  Last year we would find multiple stinkbugs sitting on the door waiting for it to slide open and this year nary a one.  Let’s hope that a natural solution is evolving.

I suppose that one explanation for reduction of all bugs in the area is the little flock of guinea fowl that walked through our yard the other morning.

Guinea fowl

We had never seen them before but apparently Guinea fowl are widely raised because of their appetite for ticks and other insects.  They are welcome to come walking here anytime they like.

I had one major loss when we returned from St. Louis and two successes to report.  This year my kids had given me a rare Chinese tree, Emmenopterys henryi, as a gift.  I had potted it up and it seemed to be doing well.  When I returned it had just up and died.  I inspected the corpse and could see no reason – the soil was moist and everything around it was doing fine.  I’ll have to give it another try I guess.  On the positive side of the ledger, the Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia) planted this spring all have developed new leaves and seem to be growing just fine, something I did not see with last year’s attempt at the Shortias.

Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia)

In somewhat the same vein, I have planted Gloriosa Lilies many times and never managed to get a growing plant, let alone a flower.  This time, along with all the other much delayed plantings, I put the Gloriosa in the ground just before we went to St. Louis.  This time the effort was rewarded with a little plant that seems to be coming on nicely.

Gloriosa Lily (Gloriosa superba)